European Union (EU) heads of state and government on Friday agreed to set binding targets for the share of renewable energy in the bloc's energy mix, and a unilateral reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020.
They agreed at their spring summit to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2020 from 6.5 percent at present and endorsed plans to unilaterally cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020.
The leaders agreed to a 30-percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020 provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable reductions and leading developing countries also reduce emissions "adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities."
"The challenges of climate change need to be tackled effectively and urgently ... The European Council underlines the vital importance of achieving the strategic objective of limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said the EU leaders in a statement.
The European Council is Brussels jargon for EU summits.
The agreement on renewable energy is thought to be a major achievement of the spring summit as ministers of member states had failed to make the targets mandatory prior to the summit.
However, the European Commission (EC), the executive body of the EU, has yet to propose individual national reduction plans.
"Twenty percent is an overall target, not specific target for each (EU) state," Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a press conference on Friday.
He said that the 20-percent target is a binding one and all EU member states have showed the "political will" to implement it.
The commission has been asked to table specific targets for each EU member states in the third quarter of this year.
In an energy policy action plan for 2007-2009 adopted at the summit, the EU leaders also agreed to increase energy efficiency so as to achieve the objective of saving 20 percent of the EU's energy consumption compared to the current projections for 2020. They agreed to increase the share of biofuels in the transport sector to 10 percent by 2020.
"This text really gives European Union policies a new quality and will establish us as a world pioneer," German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired the two-day summit, said on Friday.
The leaders also made progress regarding another thorny issue: the unbundling of energy giants. They agreed on "effective separation of supply and production activities from network operations."
They agreed on a string of measures to improve competition in the energy market.